Awash in wonders

April 9, 2013

By Peter Clark


Denizens of the depths surface at Seattle Aquarium

Somehow, I made it my entire life so far without visiting an aquarium.

By Peter Clark One of the most interesting features in the aquarium is the underwater dome, around which many different species, such as the fellow pictured above, swim around spectators.

By Peter Clark
One of the most interesting features in the aquarium is the underwater dome, around which many different species, such as the fellow pictured above, swim around spectators.

I suppose some blame can rest on growing up in the Midwest, but more than anything, the opportunity just never presented itself. I consider that a real shame because I am fascinated by all things aquatic. “Moby Dick” is one of my favorite books, I have watched more nature shows on the deep sea than any other kind of nature show and I should have visited an aquarium sooner.

The past is the past, however, and I can proudly say that two weekends ago, I visited the Seattle Aquarium. Normally, Weekend Wanderer features experiences that lie a little further away, but I thought readers might like a reminder of the simple pleasures in the downtown Seattle attraction. I had a simply lovely time looking at the various exhibits in the modest museum. I can’t reconcile the wonder I found with what aquarium aficionados would think, but they can write their own article; I had a blast.

Entering the nondescript building on the docks of Alaskan Way, the $20 admission may seem a bit steep, but I didn’t mind as my senses were dulled with the smell of saltwater.

One of the first exhibits I stopped to visit worked in the aquarium’s favor by displaying two of its most interesting attractions. A couple of octopuses clung to the glass walls of two large tanks connected with a hamsterlike tube. I’ve never seen an octopus up close and felt overjoyed that they were just as alien and impossible in person as “Planet Earth” made them seem. As I stared like the slack-jawed Kentuckian that I am, a staff member nearby asked if I had any questions.

I’m a reporter. My life is asking questions.

Much to my delight, the staffers in the Seattle Aquarium were not high school volunteers. They answered my sometimes poignant, sometimes inane questions with a quick expertise that had me leaving with a lot more information than I had upon entering. I remain impressed with the knowledge that they shared and recommend any visitor to ask any question that comes to mind. (For the record, the octopuses do have names.)

Inside the octopus tank were several starfish to complete the illusion of ecosystem for the cephalopods, like putting a twig in a jar with a frog. I was elated to see such a thing. Despite traveling to a few oceans, I had never seen a starfish in the spiny flesh. Imagine my utter joy when I looked up from the enclosed glass that held the starfish to see the large “petting zoo” containing many starfish, sea anemone and other creatures for the public to touch.

The aquarium also contained a number of exhibits that featured marine life that made its habitat in the Puget Sound. That really interested me, and I appreciated the showcase of the surrounding environs with displays dedicated to the salmon life cycle and sea birds.

Finally, there were the amazing otters. Why were they amazing? Because: otters. Such charismatic creatures served well as a charming end to the aquarium. Clearly a crowd favorite on the beautiful spring day, many gathered around both the under- and above-water vantage points to snap pictures.

I reiterate that I cannot judge the Seattle aquarium through expert eyes. I can only say that though it was smaller than I would have expected, it delivered on my hopes, even exceeding them by letting me touch starfish. Of course, I would have enjoyed seeing larger lifelike sharks or an enormous reef habitat, but I was very pleased with the whole trip. Just for good measure, I made sure to backtrack to the octopuses and ask more questions.


If you go

Seattle Aquarium

  • 1415 Western Ave.,
  • No. 505
  • 206-386-4300
  • 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
  • Adult (ages 13 and up)
  • $19.95
  • Youths (ages 4-12)
  • $13.95
  • Children (ages 3 and younger) free
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